Lilly Pulitzer’s Influence Must Shift (Pun Intended!) Beyond Fashion

by | Apr 23, 2013 | Blog

Last evening my daughter Caroline shared an NPR “All Things Considered” story which she found on her iphone app. Sometimes technology can be so simple and connective, even for us “coming of age” women.

Lilly Pulitzer’ story is an amazing one as it represents the era that connects my mom’s generation through my generation to my daughter’s. In the early 60s Lilly’s shift dress was a fun little flirtation for wealthy women, sexy in its independence from fashion restraint (and short hemline for tanned legs) but also an expression of feminine aesthetic beyond the sophisticated confines of the well-dressed. My mother and mother-in-law wore them and despite some pretty awful fashion detours of the late 60s I did too. A few years back my daughters all unpacked and donned my Lilly dresses, surprising me at a family friend’s birthday party. That moment went way beyond fashion and marked a rare moment in time when the Henderson girls were joyously in uniform. And to think that this style was conceived when young women like myself were growing up in middle class and upper middle class families with moms who were homemakers.To consider that the creator and entrepreneur was a young woman herself, who could have easily avoided the roadside orange juice stand and the manufacture of colorful clothing for women.

In Lilly Pulitzer I see a need beyond her life circumstances- a need to share, to create and to be a part of the big picture of her moment in history. It spanned three generations and will no doubt continue.

In 2010 at the October furniture market in High Point HFI Homebrands introduced a Lilly Pulitzer Furniture line of over 200 pieces. The collection was a huge, colorful success with its splashy upholstered pieces in her signature fabrics. There were also vintage case pieces in brightly laquered colors, pieces influenced by The Breakers Hotel and a little porcelain painted elephant side table that I’ll bet your mom or aunt had.

I ordered a bergere and waited over a year to get it. It was discussed by many young women on my Facebook Page as the prettiest chair they had ever seen. I agree!! The fact that I had to wait so long for the chair was indicative of problems. The Lilly line was wildly successful and hugely in demand. Production could not keep pace with such a large collection and HFI has had to pull the line.

My sense is that this idea is only awaiting rebirth. Lilly fabrics and trimmings are available now through Lee Jofa for your beautiful home. They are a stunning reminder that women can continue to seek beauty and fun simultaneously. Although I let that bergere go from my shop I will soon be decorating a small condominium for myself and there will be 2 wild fun and beautiful chairs in Lee Jofa’s Lilly fabrics. Cudos to you Ms. Lilly. Let’s continue to shift towards fun…..